As the clock ticks toward NFL training camps, players continue to express anxiety over what exactly the league’s plan is to address playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
J.J. Watt turned up the pressure on the NFL on Thursday. The five-time Houston Texans All-Pro pass rusher tweeted a list of specific concerns he has based on recent calls with the NFL Players Association.
In short, Watt says that players want to play, but they remain in the dark about basic COVID-19 planning. Meanwhile, training camp is on the horizon. Rookies are scheduled to report on July 19 with full camps scheduled to start July 28.
In the interest of having everyone on the same page in terms of what we know and don’t know at this time, here are a few things I’ve learned being on four NFLPA calls in the last two weeks with hundreds of other players.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) July 16, 2020
Keep in mind our rookies are scheduled to report in 48 hrs pic.twitter.com/wAH1XyQenf
Thursday wasn’t the first time Watt has expressed concern over the league’s planned coronavirus season. He said earlier in July that he was worried about being required to use a face shield and might sit out if there’s a mandate.
On July 1, the NFL reportedly made plans to cut the preseason in half from four games to two. Reports immediately followed questioning that plan, noting the NFLPA’s desire to cut the preseason out entirely.
According to Watt, there’s no clarity on that front as preseason games remain scheduled to start on Aug. 13.
Watt also says that players are in the dark on what the plan is in case of a COVID-19 emergency. They don’t know what basic preventative health protocols will look like. They don’t know how inevitable COVID-19 infections will impact rosters and contracts. They don’t know what training camp will look like less than two weeks out.
Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported on July 10 that many of these unresolved issues were being discussed among players then in addition to significant differences between players and owners over how to share the burden of the financial impact of the pandemic.
Six days later, it sounds like no progress has been made.
But the league has reportedly implemented a ban on postgame jersey exchanges. So there’s that.
The bottom line in terms of player safety is that there’s no simple answer for protecting players during a pandemic involving an airborne disease. There’s no such thing social distancing in tackle football. COVID-19 risk is inherent.
Those expecting the NFL to come up with a cure-all should brace themselves for disappointment if they haven’t already.
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